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Sectarianism raises jihadist blowback threat in Gulf

Monday, February 23, 2015

Subject

'Islamic State' blowback risk in Gulf

Significance

A recent spate of attacks in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states suggest that the threat posed to them by the Islamic State group (ISG) arises primarily from 'lone wolf' operations. However, the GCC states face a deeper challenge both internally from networks of ISG cells, and externally from the flow of Gulf nationals to ISG battlefronts in Iraq and Syria. With the Gulf states leading the region in partnering with the United States in the air campaign against ISG, officials must balance this close security relationship with the threat of backlash from domestic supporters of ISG.

Impacts

  • GCC states will seek to avoid being drawn directly into any military escalation against ISG in Iraq and Syria.
  • Instead, they will rely on the US military to take the lead, underlining their reliance on Washington as an external security guarantor.
  • GCC states will become increasingly critical of the US air campaign if it fails to roll back ISG gains.
  • Gulf authorities are using the extremist threat to delegitimise and ban most forms of political and popular dissent.
  • Greater security cooperation with Jordan will solidify the kingdom's incorporation into a GCC sphere of regional influence.
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